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The heritage bur oak at 218 Keyworth Avenue

Updated: Apr 19, 2020

Diameter at breast height: 94 cm

Estimated age of tree: 180 years old

Gillian Peters felt the power of what she calls “the mighty oak” in her front yard even before she and Jeff MacIntosh moved in with their 18-month old daughter. Here is Gillian’s tale of her first meeting with this heritage tree:

In September 2001, Jeff and I had an appointment to view this house as it was for sale. When parking the car across the street, the first thing that I saw was this beautiful old tree. Then, as we were waiting on the front lawn for the realtor to arrive, acorns kept raining down and trickling off the roof of the house. We laughed that we needed a hard hat to stand outside in the fall.  The oak tree brought so much character to the property. It was one of the reasons we purchased the house and took great care in ensuring its health and safety when renovating.

Heritage bur oak at 218 Keyworth Ave.

The care they took involved a cantilevered approach to building an addition, to avoid digging and then pouring a foundation that might disturb the oak tree’s roots. The tree’s massive canopy shades 4 properties. It would have been about 65 years old when their house was built in the early 1920s.

Walking through the forest to greet the King

Located near the corner of Keyworth and Sunnymede, the tree at 218 Keyworth (and about 7 others in the south end of that city block) is part of what a former resident of Keyworth Ave. described as “a forest I walked through to see the King.”

In May 1939, when King George VI’s horse-drawn carriage passed along the southern part of Island Park Drive as part of a Royal visit, people flocked to the event.

A day later, a woman who was just a girl then remembers “walking through the forest” from Keyworth Avenue to Island Park Drive to see the King and Queen ride by. The afternoon’s outing for the Royal couple included a tour of  the Quebec countryside near Alymer. Their route took them from Ottawa’s downtown to Aylmer, Quebec, via Island Park Drive and its bridge.

A heritage video (in crisp black and white) shows scenes of the tour. The Ottawa segment begins at 19:06 minutes and large trees, not yet in leaf, feature prominently on the southern section of Island Park Drive where the Royals’ train stopped on Day 1 of their visit. Unfortunately, the film does not show the afternoon sojourn on May 20 that involved the northern end of Island Park Drive and the trip across the bridge.

Local historian Dave Allston provided a newspaper clipping from the Ottawa Journal of May 22, 1939 that describes the excitement children felt when the King and Queen rode along Island Park Drive. (341 Island Park Drive, mentioned in the clipping, is between Richmond Road and Scott Street.)

The grove of bur oaks nestled along Daniel and Keyworth Avenues near present-day Sunnymede consists of trees that people incorporated into intensive development of the neighbourhood in the early 1950s. Today, we can be grateful that at least part of the 1930s forest remains for us to enjoy. --Debra Huron

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